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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Whose Child Are You?

Probably one of the most famous stories in all the Bible is that of David and Goliath. Even most children can tell that story from beginning to end in flawless detail. Yet no matter how many times I hear it or read it, I'm still amazed at David's faith.

Here's a shepherd boy gearing up to face a giant of 9+ feet. Goliath is mean. He's ugly. He's fierce. He's trained and battle-hardened. He wields his sword with strength and agility. Then, there's little David who has to set aside his harp to pick up some stones for his sling. Is it just me, or does this picture seem a little lopsided?

It does to me, but it didn't to David. You see, David had enough faith to see what I often fail to see: with God on my side, all things are possible. There was no doubt in David's mind that he would succeed. He told Saul in plain language that he would kill the giant. No doubt. No worry. No anxiety. When David stepped out on faith, he stepped out running. The Bible says he ran to Goliath. Hmm, when was the last time I ran toward my giants instead of running away from them?

There's so much to be learned from this one story in the Bible. It's a story of great faith. But even more than that, it's a story of how our faith reflects on our Father. When Saul witnessed David's great feat, he asked his guard, "Whose son is this youth?" When people see us conquer our giants, don't they ask the same thing?

God's desire for us is that we will face our giants with great faith, so that all around us will look at each other and say, "Whose child is this?' At that point, it will be our great privilege to tell them all about our Father and how He is able to conquer any giants.

It's hard to be a witness for the Lord when we say we believe His word, but don't act like we believe it. Let's stop running away from our giants. Let's run toward them in faith as David did. Let's show off our Father and make him proud. After all, we are His children, and our actions reflect on Him.

Faith -- it's a powerful weapon!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock

Abramm has dedicated the last eight years of his life to becoming worthy to touch and tend the Sacred Flames of Eidon, and he expects to be blessed for his devotion and sacrifice. But on the eve of taking the vows that will irrevocably separate him from the life he was born to—as Abramm Kalladorne, fifth son of the king of Kiriath, he is betrayed by his spiritual mentor and sold into slavery by his own family.

Swept along by the winds of a new destiny, Abramm is forced to compete as a gladiator. When the oppressed masses rally around his success, he discovers his suffering has molded him into something greater than he ever thought possible—to serve a purpose he never imagined.

I really wasn't sure if I would like this book or not when I picked it to review.  The premise sounded interesting, so I figured I would give it a try.  To be honest, after reading it, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  The premise and plot of the story were very good.  The story is set up as an allegory with Eidon being the representation of God.  The theme that seemed to run through the entire story was Abramm's unbelief that salvation could really be as simple as just accepting the offer.  He believed he had to make himself holy and prove himself worthy.  The symbolism was excellent and powerful.

That being said, I don't think I've ever spent so long trying to get through a book.  The book itself was very long (432 pages), and many times, the story was bogged down with too much detail and description.  By the time I finally reached the end of the story, I no longer remembered the characters who were re-introduced in the final chapters.  As intriguing as the plot was, I was just glad to finally be finished with the book.

Overall, I feel that the author wove an excellent story, but the story could have been told in fewer words.  The entire tale was drawn out, and to me, the story lost most of its appeal.  I believe this would be one of the few books for which I would enjoy the abridged version much more.  Less fluff; more meat.

This book was given to me as part of the review program for Waterbrook Multnomah.  The opinions expressed herein are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hidden Meaning Behind the 12 Days of Christmas

People often think of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' as the days preceding the festival. Historically, Christmas is the season of the Christian Year for the days beginning on December 25 and lasting until January 6 (the Day of Epiphany) when the church celebrates the revelation of Christ as the light of the world and recalls the journey of the Magi. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith openly. During that era someone wrote 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' as a kind of secret catechism that could be sung in public without risk of persecution. The song has two levels of interpretation: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the church. Each element in the carol is a code word for a religious reality.

The "partridge in a pear tree" is Jesus Christ.

The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.

The three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds are the four Gospels.

The five gold rings recall the torah (Law) the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.

The seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.

The eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes.

The nine ladies dancing are the nine fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5).

The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stand for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolize the 12 points of belief in the Apostles Creed.

There you have it... the hidden meaning of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and the secret behind the song.

Monday, December 5, 2011

God's Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours by Max Lucado

Each of us is living out our own story.  For most of us, the characters have been revealed, the theme is pretty evident, and the setting, while it may change from time to time, is established.  The plot, however, can leave us bewildered and wondering if there is a reason for the chaos and confusion that surround us.  Who would write such a story?  What kind of writer would leave their main characters in such turmoil, facing one trial after another and dealing with insurmountable odds?  A good one!

We all know what makes up a good story.  Good versus evil.  Danger around every turn.  Tragedy and triumph.  Scenes that leave us wiping our tears or perched on the edge of our seats.  These traits merge together to form the perfect story -- that is, until we find ourselves as the main characters.  But never fear, for the Author of our story knows exactly how everything will work out in the end.  He has the story planned out, and it's not over until He writes, "The End".

I've never picked up a Max Lucado book that I didn't like, and this one was certainly no exception.  From page one until the final chapter, I was enthralled by the web of hope and encouragement Lucado weaves.  He equates our lives to a story and God as its author.  Each page demonstrates God's love and grace in helping us to live out our stories even when we don't understand the twists and turns.  Through the Scripture, and with his unrivaled wit, Lucado reminds us that God is in control.  He is not writing out our story; it's already written.  He knows the outcome and every trial we may face along the journey.  He knows and understands each character, and He has placed each one in the proper setting.  With every word, I was encouraged that not only does God know what I'm going through, but He also cares.

If I had to pick out one negative in the book it would be the way that Lucado blurs the rapture and the second coming of the Lord into one event instead of two distinct events.  I prefer a clearer distinction between the two, but the important fact was made quite clear:  Jesus is coming back, and those who are saved will rise up to meet Him in the air, and that is only the beginning of our eternal lives with Him.

If you're looking for the perfect gift for a loved one, offer them this item of hope, encouragement and comfort.  It's a must-read for Christians at any stage in their Christian walk.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Steps in the Darkness

With winter coming on rapidly and the time change having already taken place, Jason and I have been reminded to get off the hiking trails a lot sooner than normal.  At five o'clock, it may still look like day time, but within a half an hour, it gets dark. . .very dark!  The trick is knowing how much time to leave ourselves before beginning the trek back to the parking area.  It always takes a while to get used to the different times and seasons.  We may think we're leaving in plenty of time, but before we're halfway back, the sun disappears, and the trail becomes very difficult to follow.

Yes, unfortunately, we've spent many evenings picking our way along a trail with only two small flashlights to illuminate the path ahead.  Not only is the process difficult, but it's unnerving.  The darkness can make the woods a very creepy place to be, and when the beam of one of the flashlights shines on the eyes of one of the dogs, well, that just scares the daylights out of me (get it, daylight, ha ha. . . anyway. . .)

The thing I hate about flashlights is that they're great for seeing the step just in front of you but not much else.  Sure, you can shine it around, making things a little more visible, but for the most part, it's only good for the next step.

Many times in life, I feel like I'm walking in the dark with only a flashlight to light my way.  And just as the example above illustrates, only the step before me is illuminated.  I long to see the whole path.  I wish to see the entire way.  I would find comfort in examining the entire trail before setting my course.  But alas, only one step is visible.  And that, my friend, is why we must have faith.

God has set each of us on a course.  We may even have a destination in view.  The path, however, often remains a mystery.  God has provided us with everything we need to take the journey, but we must trust in Him to take one step after another.  Only with each step will the next step be revealed and the final destination be reached.  It's daunting.  It's downright scary.  It's tempting to turn back or to stand still, but neither of those options will benefit us.  Our only true choice is to carry on one step at a time, watching and waiting for God's light to illuminate the next step He would have us to take. 

Before long, we'll be out of the woods and headed home, where there is no darkness!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Greatest Deal of All Time

Last Friday, millions of shoppers left their homes in the middle of the night in search of the greatest deals. Many stood out in the rain and cold for hours as they waited for the shops to open. They braved the cold, the traffic, and the crowds in an effort to save money on this year's Christmas shopping.

I used to be one of those people, but not anymore. I have learned the joy of online shopping with free shipping, and I'll never go back to "the old way." Yes, while millions were freezing their bottoms off, I was sitting in bed reading an e-book. I was warm. I was comfortable. I was happy. For those who enjoy the thrill of the day, that's fine. I won't begrudge them that, but I prefer to stay in my warm bed.

I wonder, though, if sometimes we get so worked up about the latest and greatest deal that we forget the true "greatest" deal. What deal am I talking about? Salvation, of course. We didn't have to stand in line to get it. There wasn't a limited supply. We didn't have to get up early. We didn't have to fight the crowds. And best yet, we didn't need a credit card. Salvation is a precious gift, and while it didn't cost us a thing, let us not forget that it cost Jesus His life. Yes, the greatest deal of all time was when we traded our filthy rags of sin for those holy white robes of atonement. We gave Jesus our guilt and shame, and in return He gave us a home in Heaven. That's a deal you won't find in the Black Friday ads!